Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28; 34-36
Who among us not presently experiencing anxieties and worries, worries over what is going to happen to us along with worries about our loved ones? Perhaps we have children or grandchildren, relatives and close friends who are waiting for their job applications to be answered; waiting for banks to give us answers about mortgage refinancing; waiting for customers to resume purchases from our businesses; waiting for our doctors’ reports about our medical conditions; waiting for our economy to recover? There are those, too, who are waiting in expectant longing and hope for their sufferings to end.
Anxieties hold us hostage and constrict hearts. We find ourselves not sharing words of love with those who are close to us. Our relationships with others fall into neglect. Our promises of love, our moments of affection and intimacy are stifled in our anxieties and worries over what awaits us in our future.
What, I ask, is happening in our lives of prayer – in our relationships with God? During my years as a priest I have noticed that when things are going well for us we don’t pay much attention to God. We’re too busy having fun and enjoying the good life. Then when things go wrong we wonder where God is and complain that He seems to be absent. We look for the God we have neglected and then wonder where He is when our days are darkened in sufferings, anxieties, and worries.
The readings in today’s Mass take us into the season of Advent, that time of waiting in expectant faith and hope for the coming of God, the coming of God into our lives not only at the end of time but during the days in which we live. There are many advents of God, as we all know. There are moments (if we have the eyes to see) in which God touches us in our every day living with His gracious and loving presence. God is close, but do we see Him, experience Him, and pay attention to Him?
We need to take a look today at two aspects in our lives that can blind us from seeing and experiencing God’s presence to us. One is when our hearts and drowsy with complacency, when things are going very well for us and our souls are sleeping in contentment. The other is at the opposite pole, when our souls are filled with the dark storms of anxiety and worry.
In today’s second reading St. Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians about that, asking them to increase their love for one another in the midst of their troubles, anxieties, and worries. God has promised us His love; God has promised to send us our Savior; God has not and will not abandon us. We need to give Him our time, our prayers, and our hearts in good times and in bad.
Our times of prayer need to be consistent; they need to be a part of our lives each and every day. Our words of care, concern, and love for each other need to be a part of our lives each and every day. When we become too self-absorbed, love suffers, both our love for others and our love of God.
All of us know about longing, about waiting in expectant hope. There are married couples whose relationships with their spouses are being tested and stressed. They are waiting in expectant hope for their earlier fervor to return to what it once was. Young boys and girls are waiting in expectant hope for a sign of interest from one who has captured their hearts. Engaged couples are longing for the arrival day of their marriage. Expectant mothers are waiting for the birth of their child. Childless couples are waiting in expectant hope for news of pregnancy. Those out of work are waiting for a job to come their way. Men and women overseas in our armed forces and waiting in expectant hope for the news that they can return to their homes here in the United States.
All of us experience the echoes of what the Church now bids us enter, echoes of Advent, echoes of the long awaited coming of God into our human world. “O come, O come Emmanuel,” she sings. Come O Deliverer, come and bring us relief in our world of pain; come and bring us justice, peace, and relief from our past sins; come and give us our longed-for forgiveness.
This is the First Sunday of Advent in the year 2009. It is likewise the first Sunday of the Church’s new year that will take us through the year 2010. How shall we enter into this new beginning?
Constancy is a virtue I want to bring to your attention today. Constancy and consistency – constancy and consistency in your daily contact with God along with constancy and consistency in your daily contact with your wives, your husbands, your children, and with those whom you love. The world that Jesus entered over 2,000 years ago was a world in crisis. Our world today is a world filled with our own crises. It is not the fact that there are crises and anxieties we must face that is important. The important thing is rather how we respond to them. Not only that, but how do we respond to others and to God in the midst of them.
Today at Mass we are presented with new beginnings. During this forthcoming Advent we can increase daily our conscious contact with God. Perhaps we need to do that now more than ever. Do not allow a spirit of defeatism to tempt you. The words of Jesus today, words He directs to you and me both are: “When these things are happening, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Life throws its challenges at us, challenges that we cannot face alone, challenges that cause us to turn to God so that with Him we can overcome all that would tear us away from His love.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.